Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Arab Americans ask for reversal of WSU's decision to pull Helen Thomas award, warn against stifling the debate

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Arab Americans ask for reversal of WSU's decision to pull Helen Thomas award, warn against stifling the debate

DETROIT - The Congress of Arab American Organizations (CAAO) in Metropolitan Detroit is condemning last week's decision by Wayne State University to pull its Helen Thomas Spirit of Diversity in the Media Award following comments she made at a diversity conference in Dearborn. Thomas, an Arab American, is perhaps the best-known alumna of WSU, having covered every President of the United States from the last years of the Eisenhower administration until the second year of the Obama administration. She was the first female officer of the National Press Club, the first female member and president of the White House Correspondents' Association, and the first female member of the Gridiron Club. She has written five books.

At the conference, held December 2, Thomas reiterated the claim she first made earlier this year at the White House’s Jewish Heritage Day event on May 27 that the Israelis should withdraw from the West Bank and Gaza. In the Dearborn conference she lamented U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East and added: "Congress, the White House and Hollywood, Wall Street are owned by Zionists. No question, in my opinion." WSU leaders said they considered the remark anti-Semitic and pulled the award the following day.

CAAO leaders met with WSU officials this morning to discuss the decision, its meaning and ramifications. "We do not understand why a remark against a political group - the Zionists - would be interpreted as being anti-Semitic," said Osama Siblani, CAAO spokesman. "We categorically reject equating Zionism with Judaism. We believe the real problem here is that some in the pro-Israeli community donor base are doing what they do whenever they can, which is silencing debate on the subject of Israel. But for an academic institution to silence debate is unconscionable. Universities are where debate should begin."

"Helen Thomas is not now and never has been anti-Semitic," said CAAO executive committee member Imad Hamad. "She has worked her entire career, 60 years, to bring truth to the American public and she is simply continuing to do that."

CAAO warns that unless it is properly addressed and corrected, this hastily-made decision will negatively impact relations between the university and the Arab American community for many years. CAAO has asked the university to reconsider its decision. "The ball is now in their court," Siblani said.

University officials said they would respond to the CAAO concerns by Friday, December 10. 

CAAO members will meet at the Lebanese American Heritage Club at 6 p.m. tomorrow, December 8, to further discuss the matter. 


Monday, December 06, 2010


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WASHINGTON—Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano today announced the expansion of the Department’s national “If You See Something, Say Something” campaign to hundreds of Walmart stores across the country—launching a new partnership between DHS and Walmart to help the American public play an active role in ensuring the safety and security of our nation.
“Homeland security starts with hometown security, and each of us plays a critical role in keeping our country and communities safe,” said Secretary Napolitano. “I applaud Walmart for joining the ‘If You See Something, Say Something’ campaign. This partnership will help millions of shoppers across the nation identify and report indicators of terrorism, crime and other threats to law enforcement authorities.”
The “If You See Something, Say Something” campaign—originally implemented by New York City’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority and funded, in part, by $13 million from DHS’ Transit Security Grant Program—is a simple and effective program to engage the public and key frontline employees to identify and report indicators of terrorism, crime and other threats to the proper transportation and law enforcement authorities.
More than 230 Walmart stores nationwide launched the “If You See Something, Say Something” campaign today, with a total of 588 Walmart stores in 27 states joining in the coming weeks.  A short video message, available here, will play at select checkout locations to remind shoppers to contact local law enforcement to report suspicious activity.
Over the past five months, DHS has worked with its federal, state, local and private sector partners, as well as the Department of Justice, to expand the “If You See Something, Say Something” campaign and Nationwide SAR Initiative to communities throughout the country—including the recent state-wide expansions of the “If You See Something, Say Something” campaign across Minnesota and New Jersey.  Partners include the Mall of America, the American Hotel & Lodging Association, Amtrak, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, sports and general aviation industries, and state and local fusion centers across the country.
In the coming months, the Department will continue to expand the “If You See Something, Say Something” campaign nationally with public education materials and outreach tools designed to help America’s businesses, communities and citizens remain vigilant and play an active role in keeping the county safe.


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EVANSTON, ILLINOIS, U.S.A. – December 6, 2010 – Northwestern University President Morton Shapiro and Provost Dan Linzer today announced the appointment of Everette E. Dennis as Dean of Northwestern University in Qatar.

Everette Dennis, currently the Felix E. Larkin Distinguished Professor and Chairperson of Communication and Media Management at Fordham University Business School, will join Northwestern University in Qatar effective June 1, 2011. He succeeds founding Dean John D. Margolis, who has served as the Dean of NU-Q since its inception in 2007.
Professor Dennis, who is also currently the Director of the Center for Communications at Fordham and Executive Director of the International Longevity Center-USA in New York City, is widely recognized and respected in the fields of communication and journalism, and more broadly within higher education, as a scholar, author, educator, and educational leader.  He earned his Ph.D. in mass communication, constitutional law and history from the University of Minnesota, and has held advanced fellowships at Harvard Law School and Harvard's Institute of Politics. He earned an A.M. from Syracuse University in communication and a B.S. in journalism/political science from the University of Oregon. 

Northwestern University Provost Dan Linzer stated, “We are very excited about the transition from the exceptional leadership of John Margolis as founding Dean to the new leadership and directions at NU-Q that will be undertaken by Everette Dennis.  We will look forward to thanking Dean Margolis this winter and spring for his service through the exciting phases of operational start-up, curricular expansion, and community growth.”

Dean John Margolis expressed his congratulations, stating, “I am certain that the entire NU-Q community joins me in applauding the appointment of Everette Dennis as the next dean.  He will bring to our thriving campus both a wealth of administrative experience and an international reputation as a scholar in the fields of communication and journalism.”

Commenting from his office at Fordham University in New York, Everette Dennis stated, “It will be a great privilege to serve as dean of NU-Q, which is part of one of the most important educational collaborations in the world today, bringing together the best of Northwestern University's traditions in journalism and communication with the Qatar Foundation and the other institutions of Education City.” 

He further commented, “Building on NU-Q's fine beginnings, my goal and that of the NU-Q community is to contribute to the transformation of communication and media in what is now a digital and global world.  The critical task is to inspire and nurture the best possible talent for the present and future. I look forward to working strategically and creatively with colleagues in Doha on the next phase of what is already an exciting trajectory for the university.”

Professor Dennis’ previous experience also includes serving as Dean of the School of Journalism and Communication at the University of Oregon; Director of Graduate Studies in Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Minnesota, and as the founding director of the Media Studies Center at Columbia University, which he led while also serving as the senior vice president of the Gannett and Freedom Forum Foundations.

Professor Dennis also has extensive international experience that will serve Northwestern very well in Qatar. He served as founding President of the American Academy in Berlin, as a trustee at the International Institute of Communications and International Center for Journalists, and as the Executive Director of the International University Consortium for Freedom Forum.  He is currently a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and has been a consultant and lecturer in more than 50 countries.

In addition, Professor Dennis has authored, co-authored, and edited some 45 books, including two in 2010 -- Understanding Media in the Digital Age; and the reissue of Other Voices: The New Journalism in America.  Other works include The Media Society, Media Debates, Justice Black & The First Amendment, as well as studies of media in Eastern Europe, Latin America, and East Asia.  His influential coauthored media text with Melvin L. DeFleur, Understanding Mass Communication, was published in seven editions, and his books have been translated into 14 languages.  He has served on the editorial board of several international media journals, and is the founding editor of Media Studies Journal.

-- ENDS --
About Northwestern University in Qatar
Northwestern University in Qatar is an international offspring of one of America’s top-ranked educational institutions.  In Qatar, Northwestern offers curricula modeled on the innovative undergraduate programs of Northwestern University’s School of Communication and Medill School of Journalism in the U.S.  The communication program offers courses of study in the areas of communication theory, history and media technologies; the fully accredited journalism program offerings include concentrations in print, broadcast and multimedia. Courses in Qatar are taught by scholars and practitioners who hold faculty appointments and have had first-hand experience on the campus in Evanston, Ill., a North Shore suburb of Chicago.  Northwestern University is ranked #12 among all U.S. universities by US News & World Report.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

NAAJA Arab journalists denounce Wayne State University move to cancel Helen Thomas diversity award

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Ray Hanania

American Arab Journalists denounce Wayne State University's cancellation
of Helen Thomas Award as a move to undermine Free Speech

Chicago, Il - The National Arab American Journalists Association Saturday denounced the decision to Wayne State University to terminate its annual Helen Thomas Spirit of Diversity Award, calling the move a cowardly act surrendering to racist hate.

Wayne State University, which has a large American Arab student population located in the heart of the nation's largest American Arab community, took the action in the face of pressure from Pro-Israel hate organizations angry because Helen Thomas expressed an opinion criticizing the influence of Zionist American organizations on American Foreign Policy.

Thomas, the keynote speaker at a Diversity Conference hosted Dec. 3 by ArabDetroit.com and attended by more than 300 participants, criticized those who attacked her for challenging Israel's actions in Palestine. She repeated her belief that the Zionist political movement in the United States "controls" the White House, the Congress and American foreign policy.

"The topic of Zionism is irrelevant to this debate. The real issue is free speech. Is America a nation of Free Speech or has our free speech been compromised by oftentimes vicious and hateful special interest organizations," said NAAJA coordinator Ray Hanania.

"This is America and America is the nation that is supposed to be the country of Free Speech. Instead of cowering in the face of pressure and special interest lobbying groups, journalists especially and other mainstream organizations should allow an open and full public discussion of the issues, controversial or not."

Hanania said that American Arab journalists have come under intense pressure from their news organizations and from organizations across the country in the wake of Helen Thomas' public crucifixion.

Thomas denied she resigned from the Hearst media corporation and said she was "fired" for expressing her views. She called President Barack Obama and other mainstream journalists "who fear challenging Israel's influence" in this country "cowardly."

The Society of Professional Journalists this year closed down the American Arab Journalism section and blog specifically because American Arab journalists have expressed opinions that challenge the news media's failure to be objective on the issue of the Middle East. The decision by Wayne State University to cave to special-interest political pressure is a continuation of growing anti-Arab sentiment.

"Mainstream American journalism is being bullied and pressured into censoring pro-Arab and pro-Palestinian free speech. American Arabs have never said that the pro-Israel view should be silenced. We have only demanded that the mainstream American news media include our views equally and present them fairly. They have not done that. Helen Thomas is a perfect example of that lack of professionalism."

NAAJA has more than 250 members across the country working in mainstream American journalism positions and the ethnic media.

American Arab Journalists from across America will converge in Dearborn March 4 - 6, 2011 to participate in a national conference to address this and other topics. The conference is being held at the Hyatt Regency in
Dearborn. The web site is www.NAAJA-US.com.

"The voices of American Arabs will not be silenced in a country where we, too, have served our country valiantly in every war, in every military branch and in every public and government position that has been open to us. Wayne State University's actions ate shameful and undermine the very aspect that makes this country great, free speech," Hanania said.